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Girls & Women

Germany brings rape laws into 21st century with ‘no means no’ provision

Germany updated its sexual violence laws to make it easier to prosecute rape cases.

Previously, there had to be proof that a victim resisted for a rape to be prosecuted. Now, saying “no” will be enough evidence and a victim’s testimony in court will finally be given the weight it deserves.

This is a long-overdue amendment and comes after decades of criticism that Germany had a dangerously regressive stance toward rape.

Up until 1997, marital rape wasn’t even defined as a crime. The ambiguities in broader sexual violence laws made it extremely difficult to punish predators.

Germany is so inhospitable to rape victims that just 10 percent of rapes are reported in the country and of these cases, only 10 percent result in convictions, according to Germany’s n-tv.

It took a series of high-profile sexual violence events to fuel the recent push for revised laws.

A New Year’s celebration in Cologne resulted in mass sexual violence that enraged the country. Then model Gina-Lisa Lohfink was unable to secure convictions for her rapists even though she had video footage in which she said “No!” and “Stop it!” She was then actually fined $27,000 for falsely testifying for “wrongly” accusing the men.

Protests followed both incidents and eventually the slogan #NeinHeisstNein (no means no) became a rallying cry.

Because of the uproar, the sexual violence law passed with an overwhelming majority, suggesting that country is ready to change its reputation.

Other aspects of the law include classifying groping as a sexual crime, making group assaults easier to prosecute and making it easier to deport migrants guilty of sexual violence.

A global issue

Around the world, an estimated 35 percent of women have experienced sexual violence of some form.

In many countries, laws exist that prevent women from seeking justice after being raped and oftentimes women are shamed and marginalized for being sexually abused.

In Iran, for instance, women are still regularly stoned to death for being raped. In India and Singapore, marital rape is legal.

Sexual violence also leads to murder far too often. Femicide has become an epidemic in parts of Latin America and honor killings are common in countries like Pakistan.  

In more progressive countries, women are routinely doubted and challenged when they say they’ve been raped and convictions are regularly vacated.

Recently, the US erupted over the egregiously soft sentence given to a Stanford student, Brock Turner, who violently raped an unconscious girl.

The case highlighted the need for a complete overhaul in how rape is viewed and treated in the country and around the world after the rape victim’s letter went viral

Rape and sexual violence are not just horrible when they happen. These crimes traumatize people for years and decades afterwards and can derail a person’s life. This trauma should never be compounded by a cold and skeptical legal system.

The new law in Germany is a necessary improvement, but it has to be embodied in courtrooms and throughout society at large.

When 100% of rapes are reported and 100% of rapes are prosecuted, then Germany will have succeeded. Until then, there is a lot of work to do.